Words on the Winter Wind

Winter Haiku

As many of you know, I write poetry and am fairly active in literary circles. I have hosted poetry readings in Hartington’s Library, participated in a poetry contest here in Yankton. (I won) I even wrote an article for the Newspaper when the Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, came to read at Mount Marty. In addition to those, every year I am invited to¬†Words on the Winter Wind, a reading held by the Nebraska Writer’s Workshop and hosted by the Baright Library in Ralston, Nebraska.

This year’s reading occurred just over a week ago, and I thought I might share two of the poems I presented this year. I hope you enjoy them, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

The Snowman

I met him on my walk

About the neighborhood.

He wore his hat and grey jacket

Of dust, some dirt, and leaves

With careless flair, while one

Twiggy arm pointed skyward,

And the other sagged to the ground

In a familiar polarity.


Even so, his eyes of coal

Held a sparkling, black glint,

Like he’d just recalled

A childhood memory

That served to warm his heart

On these days when life’s pains

Drifted high in seeming permanence.


He canted dangerously to one side;

His small, defective bottom almost

Unable to hold his ample middle

Or his tilted head and hat.

The children who made him

Must have forgotten about

His bottom side in their rush

In the same way I wished

To forget about mine.


I passed close and caught his gaze.

My tilted smile mirrored his tilted hat;

We traded silent pleasantries.

The sunlight lit his eyes for a moment,

and in them I felt our warm accord.

“See you tomorrow.” I said.

Then briefly waved and stepped

Around the corner into the wind

Toward home.

Winter II
Photo by Michael Helgerson


Winter Siren

In January, a siren of silence calls

Me every morning until

I don my coat and boots and cap

To walk the wooded windbrake

Between the North and me,

Where jointed reeds rake across

A contrailed sky–

Crooked fingers on guitar strings

Plucking pale white tones

That settle on the switch grass

As feathery ice.


My labored breath billows

Into smoke, sinking down

To settle around my cold

And heavy feet, until

Soon, I am held still

In an impotent immobility,

Eyes frozen

On everything offered here:

The ringing fullness of prairie earth

Suckling the morning;

The snow top hieroglyphs

Of wings, claws, and feet;

Downy, sunlit frost molting

From trees like fairies.


Here, rooted in this moment,

I want for nothing more.

The winter siren’s sing

The song of now and that

Is where–I live.

6 thoughts on “Words on the Winter Wind”

  1. OK, I see both from your comment and from your poems that you find Ted Kooser remarkable – I go back to him again and again. Particularly “At Midnight” – and so many more I could say.
    Your cadences sing … I am a happy reader today …
    I’m glad we met on PN. I’ll be a Level2 in April, have few clients but intend to serve those of my demographic (+or-4-score and more) who have accumulated a few dents, dings and losses along the way and are renegotiating relationships with activity and eating.
    Tell me other poets you admire, tell me if you write in form too, and are you usually as lyrical as these?

    1. Thanks for you kind words, Patricia. I’m glad you enjoyed the poems. I do really like Ted Kooser. He lives two towns over from my in-laws, and he keeps an office in the next town over, Dwight, Nebraska. I’ve met him a few times. What a great, grace-filled man. I read his newspaper column every week.
      Usually my poems are as lyrical as these. It’s kind of my signature style. I do sometimes write in form, especially sonnets and villanelles. I started working on a sonnet this past weekend.
      Other poets I admire. I just finished reading a large volume or William Stafford’s work. He’s not so lyrical, but I do enjoy his poetry. I like George Bilgere, Mary Oliver, May Sarton, and Dana Goia as well. There are too many current poets, that I enjoy in moderation, to list here. The same goes for older poets. I love so many. Robert Frost is an absolute favorite. Donald Hall is good. I like Shelly, Keats, Poe, Wallace Stevens, and Wordsworth. So many poets.
      As far as my career, I am just finishing up my level one, however I have been using Precision Nutrition’s method for years. I took Berardi’s free course years ago and downloaded the forms offered. I subscribe to his blog and have mined the archives for tons of info. Most of my clientele is older as well. I live in a rural area, and there aren’t too many young people who can afford personal training. Right now, the majority of my clients have been with me for years, which makes me proud, b/c no one puts you in their budget for that long unless they really trust what you do. I am so glad we met on the site today. I feel it is a pleasure that will continue for some time to come. Cheers! And thanks again for stopping by to read my blog.

      1. About to go to the gym – starting up again after surgery in December that went awry – fluid overload progressing to pleural effusion (which could have progressed to water toxicity and dire consequences had I not kept pestering and researching – I’m baaack! – it’s so good to be able to breathe deep again!
        I start with Nemerov (old broad, remember?) – the inestimable Emily D. and Jane Kenyon. Although not strictly a poet, Annie Dillard’s writing creeps up my spine at every reading. I am a 1959 graduate of (GAH!) Sarah Lawrence and studied with Muriel Rukeyser, who was also my don. I double-majored in English Lit and physics (split brain?) Sometimes I wonder – I like some of Tom Lux (who died last month as well as Stafford and some locals: Ruth Stone, Jeffery Harrison, of course Mary Oliver – and I return often to Linda Pastan. Took MFA in 2005 (almost 50 years after the BA @ Sarah Lawrence) writing the manuscript for D. Nurkse who wrote what I consider the the best poem about the 9/11 disaster – a poem called: “Searchers” about the sniffer dogs who searched for days for survivors in the rubble until the handlers had to hide someone for the dogs to “discover … and tug him /proudly, with suppressed yaps, /back to Command and the rows/of empty triage tables.” I can hardly breathe writing these words… I know someone who was down at Trinity, choirmaster, who had to walk home to Westchester through the chaos after waiting, waiting in fear, for the dark to lift and light to be seen again through that huge, magnificent stained-glass window in the sanctuary.
        What a great testament to your work in your community that they stick with you and continue to gain better health. I hope I can be as effective and gain the respect and loyalty of those I work with! Bless you.
        Will you be starting Level2 any time soon? I have found that to reflect much of what I have learned the hard way in corporate jobs, in teaching, running a poetry workshop – and the discipline of structuring the information and finding the synergies that unify my approaches is amazing. When you have time, I think you would find it a stunning addition to your kit-bag of tools.

        1. So glad that your health has allowed you to return to fitness. People do not understand, or at least remain unaware of, how precious the ability to move and act as we will really is.
          I love Howard Nemerov as well. A favorite is “The Makers.”
          I’m in your camp when it comes to Anne Dillard. She always amazes me.
          I looked up the poem by Nurske you mentioned, and I deeply enjoyed it. On my blog, I have one a memorial poem, too. If you have a moment, it might be something you’d like to peruse.
          As far as level 2, I think I will wait a bit before taking that on, primarily for financial reasons. I’m sure it will be highly beneficial to my practice, but it can wait. I’ll send you my email, so we can get off these blog comments, and move to a better forum. Say, I am a member of an on-line poetry workshop where one of five poets submits a poem each week and everyone provides feedback. We are currently seeking a female poet. We like to keep a balance, and right now, there’s only one female. Would you be interested? Let me know. Thanks!

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